Snow fans… is there any hope?

Now that we’re in the midst of one of the coldest outbreaks of arctic air in several years, fans of winter weather keep holding out hope for some snow.  So, what are the prospects?

Well, I wouldn’t put my faith in this particular phase of the pattern for anything more than at best some snowshowers.  The clipper systems diving south at warp speed around the base of the massive upper-level Eastern trough have little moisture to tap in their quick trips across the mid-Atlantic states.

Even some minor offshore development with each clipper  seems destined to get caught and whisked away.  After next Wednesday (21st), the pattern then warms considerably for a few days.

The last week of this month will bring more clippers, but major winter storm development appears unlikely.  Then, on to February, which is traditionally our biggest snow month, so we’ll see how things shape up as time draws closer and spring starts showing up on folks’ radar.

Posted by Jim Duncan


52 Responses to Snow fans… is there any hope?

  1. Tim says:

    And southerners, why do you wear Carhartt cold weather gear? It gets down to 40 at night and you all freeze to death! hahaha. We deal with -20 and it’s nothing new. We actually need the cold weather gear! I love it that you shut down major interstates because people can’t keep moving in some snow. I also love it that you all try to go skiiing/riding down there. You have no snow!!! If you do, it’s manmade ice on hills with about 5 trails. Come to some real mountains. Have any of you walked on a frozen lake? Rode a quad on a frozen lake? Nope!!! hahaha. Poor southerners. We get a great kick out of all of you down there. I mean, you cancel schools for rain! RAIN! Hell, we get less snow days for more snow while you get more days off for more rain. Hilarious. Toughen up, South! Toughen up. And your skiing/riding sucks and so do your skiers/riders.

  2. Tim says:

    The south sucks for snow!!! Want snow? Come to New England or go to Utah, Colorado, Cali, or even, wait for it, ARIZONA!!! You people positively freak out when a flake is mentioned. Get over it!!! You can’t handle the snow we get up North.

  3. bobby_r says:

    James your point is well taken. The weather we experience, cold, hot, wet, etc. is all relative to what we are use to. You used an example of 85 vs. lets say a normal 88 which brings to mind about an email response that I received from Mr. L Brown of the NWS several months ago. I wrote the NWS asking questions about Richmond’s average high temperature being frequently above the average in July. His response is a bit long but for people like me it’s interesting reading as to why the average high temperature for July was lowered several years ago. I would think that if this change on how average high and low temperatures are calculated that most all of the average highs and lows for Richmond will change for every month. He also briefly mentions Richmond winters. I’ve pasted his response below, enjoy.

    or normals that are compared to at the end of a month are based on the 1971-2000 normals calculated by NCDC (National Climatic Data Center). They do some odd things with the “normals” in the name of statistics….in the case of the 1971-2000 version, what they did was to lower the high temperatures by about 1.4 to 1.5 F for a given month compared to what the actual data was. For instance, if you were to calculate the avg high for july from the 30 years 1971,1972,….2000…what you would get for Richmond is 89.0 F. NCDC has the July avg high as “87.5”. Why did they do this? They claim it is because the surrounding co-op stations within a 50 mile radius of RIC showed a different trend during the 1971-2000 period than the RIC Airport station. Problem is… stations are not as reliable and are NOT 1st order stations and that 1st order stations (RIC, ORF, ROA, SBY, etc) were not compared to each other. The end result is a mess. At Roanoke (ROA) the
    y actually added 0.3 F to july’s high. Thus, at ROA the REAL July avg high is 87.2 F and at RIC it is 89.0 F………..but the “normals” according to NCDC are 87.5 F at both stations. Absolutely ridiculous considering ROA is at an elevation nearly 1000 ft higher than RIC. If you look back at the last 30+ years for any given July ROA has been cooler than RIC every time! Its unfortunate and believe me I have tried to get this changed…even did a presentation on it at a climate conference. The problem is that we have to go with the NCDC numbers. I assure you when the new 1981-2010 normals come out we will not let this happen again!

    Anyway, this accounts for making the “normals” about 0.8 F lower than they should be at RIC, making it easier for the month to above normal, etc. Now, there are other factors as well. The last 3 years have been quite warm in their own right, but I arrived here in 2002 and the winter 2002-03 and summer 2003, winter 2003-04 were quite cold/cool compared to normal.
    I have data compiled for RIC back to 1897 and there are several swings where a decade is generally mostly above or below normal, so what has occurred the past 3 years or so is not particularly unusual. Also, winters around here are very dependent on the phase of the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation). The period 1958-1972 was the snowiest on record at RIC and temperatures were generally well below normal. The NAO was almost exclusively in its negative phase during this timeframe while over the last 20 years or so it has been almost exclusively in its postive phase.

    One other factor is the growth of the Richmond Airport in recent years. Urban heat islands have little effect on daytime highs, but have tremendous effects on the lows. The lows have become much warmer in recent years at RIC, as the Airport has grown and the city suburbs have grown as well. RIC used to be about the same as surrounding rural areas for nighttime lows but is now regularly much warmer. Check out Salisbury, MD on our website…they moved the station just one mile back in 2000…it used to be closer to town and is now in a marshy area farther from town. the result is the opposite from RIC…SBY is almost always below normal since the 1971-2000 normals are based on the other location.

    As you can see, this is a complex issue!

  4. Jeff J. says:

    The rain/snow in the forecast has been changed to just rain. Ryan, I hope you’tre right!

  5. Ryan says:

    There is a chance that early next week we get a big snow or ice storm. There will be a High Pressure system to our north funneling down cold air. If you have noticed each forcast from the nws its getting colder and colder. I have seen these type systems before and although its not in the forcast for any precip now it looks very promising. Offshore development and a chance of a classic Nor Easter. You heard it hear first.

  6. james says:

    Bobby_r – wow a lot of good interesting information and plenty of stats to digest. Big thanks in sharing all of it. Definitely can’t argue with much of what you posted, but just to pick on a couple of things. Just because the daily average temp say in a winter month was above an average temp doesn’t mean it’s not cold (of course that term is relative anyway depending on whom you talk to or what you are comparing it too). Similarly, if a summer daily temp is below a long term average, doesn’t mean its cool (e.g., 85 vs 88 °F). Also, in my earlier post, I was more or less comparing the average temps of this late fall early winter season with just the past few years (vs. the last 30 or more average).

    I do remember the February ’83 snowstorm you referenced – my dad and I had to walk a couple of miles to the grocery store to get food and of course milk for the family b/c it was more or less a surprise snowstorm if memory serves me correctly. We will still get those, but as we all know, not an every winter occurrence in these parts. Thanks again.

  7. bobby_r says:

    Here are the average temperature stats for Nov., Dec. and the through Jan. 21 stats courtesy of the NWS.

    The November average daily temperature was 48.9 degrees, which is only -0.6 degrees below its average of 48.3. There were 16 days that the average daily temp was below average and 14 days that the average daily temp was above average.

    The December average daily temperature was 44.5 degrees, which is 4.1 degrees above its daily average of 40.1 degrees. There were 11 days that the temperature was below the daily average and 20 days that the temperature was above average. Even though December was well above average it was not even remotely close to Richmond’s all time warmest December of 51.1 degree that occurred 120 years ago, way back in 1889.

    Through January 21 the average daily temperature is 34.8 degrees, which is -1.6 degrees. So far this January there have been 8 days that average daily temperature has been above average, 9 days with below average daily temperatures and 4 days that the average daily temperature has been on the money average. There have been more than two days that the average temperature has been above average.

    As you can see from these stats it has not been cold in Richmond since November. November was basically an average month. December was well above average and January, up to this point in time below average. You can see, too, during this entire period there have been only 4 days that the average daily temperature was on the money average. You have to go all the way back to October 2008 to find another day that the daily average temperature was on the money average. September had only 1 such day, too. The stats further point out that the weather is rarely on the money average. You will find lots of days that the average daily temperature will be within 2 degrees above or below average but dead on the money average is something that seldom happens. The weather almost always operates on one side or the other of average. It always has and always will. The so called extremes are nothing new with the weather. This is why with Richmond having such mild, overall, average highs and lows that this area has to, along with a proper storm track, a well below average high for there to be reasonable chance of snow. A typical average day around here is typically way to warm. We often hear a forecast in the winter that the high is going to be a cold 40 degrees but when you put that 40 degree high in another prospective you can see that it’s way too warm. Yes, it can snow at 40 but it does not amount to anything because it melts as fast as it’s falling. We all know that we need cold weather but it most always has to be a day that is 13 or more degrees below the average high just to get it down to 32 degrees and then that doesn’t guarantee snow because all to often the cold air on this side of the mountains is not thick enough into the atmosphere for it to be an all snow event or snow at all. Ask any meteorologists that has had the job of trying to forecast snow for the Richmond area and they will probably tell you that this area of the country is probably one of the most difficult if not the most difficult area of the country to make a long range, beyond two days, snow forecast. The same problem existed even back in the snowy 60’s. Many, many, many times the snow forecast was a blown forecast. I remember, as a kid during that time, the forecasters reached the point of rather than predicting snow or even rain they would just say there’s a chance of rain or snow. I believe they started giving a forecast that way not only to cover both bases but because there were a many times that they called for rain and it snowed or they called for snow and it rained. When you think about it much hasn’t changed. I seem to remember that it was in February 1983 or March 1980 that the forecast for Richmond to receive no more than about an inch or two of snow. When all was said and done, the Richmond area had 17” of snow in the February 1983 storm and there was about 13” or 14” of snow in the March 1980 storm. This same similar situation happened in March 1962. The average high temperatures in all of those storms were well below the normal average high and it is that way for all of Richmond snow storms, large and small. The average high around here does not cut it for a good snow storm. We are all aware that many, many times a Richmond forecast would call for snow and the forecast even told us how deep the snow was going to be but in the end there would be no snow.

    There are a couple of major differences between the 1960’s vs. this day and time. The schools never closed because of the threat of snow or a snow flurry and I don’t ever remember people rushing to purchase groceries because the forecast was calling for snow.

  8. Jolene says:

    AAHHH! Wouldn’t that be nice…60 degrees for 3 days followed by 3 days of snow…60 degrees again. Let’s wish for it!
    James..I’ll be waiting on that groundhog. Sixty calender days til Spring is TOO LONG! Ha

  9. james says:

    Jolene, the January thaw sounds like it’s going to be relatively brief and only relatively warm compared to most of this month(next 2 days with temps above normal). I agree with you about the colder temps this season. I don’t have all the stats that some folks may keep, but have my electric and gas bills that show much higher usage than years’ past. One thing about the ‘thaw’ periods – usually they’re followed by colder periods inversely proportionally to the relative warmth. In other words the warmer the thaw, the colder the next air mass. I recall having big snowstorms after those thaw periods. Although about 60 calendar days till 1st day of spring, let’s see what the groundhog says.

    Think Spring!!

  10. CAC says:

    I forgot something, look for me, my screen name is VA SnowStorm.

  11. CAC says:

    Everyone, sign up to Accuweather forums. It’s fun! we need some more people on from Central VA.

  12. Jolene says:

    What happened to the “January thaw” Jim talked about coming around the 17th? Cold weather HAS been cold here since the middle of NOVEMBER! For at least the last few years, I remember my tulips beginning to break the ground in mid-January due to the recurrent 60+ degree days…but not THIS YEAR. Do not dispair..winter is still here and colder than years past.

    I personally would rather it be Spring!

  13. Liz says:

    Snow, what is that exactly?? I have forgotten all together… I grew up in CT and remember waiting for winter to arrive, not only for the cold weather but for the snow… I miss it terribly. My husband used to like winter but that was before he married me and all I do is complain due to the lack of cold temps and lack of snow. When I saw that Raliegh was getting snow and we were not, I was truly amazed… I say if we’re not getting snow or cold weather, let’s just have the three seasons’ we seem to have, Spring, Summer (never ending) and Fall… Don’t even make mention of winter as for me, it doesn’t exsist here in VA.

  14. Judy says:

    Hopefully we are ready for that “fluke” then. 🙂 I can’t tell you the exact year but back in the 60’s there was a huge snow in March. I don’t really want a catastrophe but a nice sledding kinda snow would be nice. We’re due for a new blog too. 🙂

  15. Jeff says:

    This may sound far-fetched but could the Earth’s magnetic field possibly reversing polarity have anything to do with climate abnormalities?

  16. jake says:

    J-Reid, we’ll see if you are still talking like this when March rolls around and we still have nothing…I hope I’m eating my words, but not holding my breath. And we haven’t had a big precipitation event, rain or snow, in a while. That is a fact, as is that the jet stream is shifting north and temps are warming per numerous PUBLISHED/OFFICIAL reports. And we are having more extremes. The reason we are above avg precip overall for the year is because we got no rain for over a month straight, and then in the fall due to tropical systems we got 10 inches at a time a couple times in a row. Clearly not normal and not well dispersed – extreme. One cold night of 4 degrees does not overpower the longer term trends we are seeing that show temps are going up ON AVERAGE overall. All of this being said, I am pleasantly surprised with the seasonably cold winter we’ve been having so far THIS YEAR. But the seccond ingredient, the moisture and the southern storm tracks, has been missing so far which means still no snow. I sure hope things change…we are running out of time. Basically we only have one more month, unless you count on a March storm which isn’t unheard of but also isn’t something you can count on maybe other than as a fluke every 20 years.

  17. dave says:

    Well, at least we aren’t the only ones getting our snow jerked away from us when it is promised and then never happens. I have family in Va Beach and they cancelled school and everything in anticipation of 5 inches of snow. They didn’t get one flake! Talk about disappointing. However, Raleigh and even the Outer Banks got a lot of snow today. This is too weird. The laws of nature really should not be allowing Richmond to miss snow for four years straight while these other places that never get it like Greenville, NC are getting slammed. I hope next week will bring something, but the temps are being forecast as upper 30s and 40s. And every other hope for snow in the long range forecast has been quickly taken away. Hopefully it will get colder as time goes on, even though usually they just make it warmer for us instead of colder. But you never know. Raleigh wasn’t supposed to get anything until one day in advance when the forecast changed. Hopefully that is an indicator that the pattern is shifting towards more Southern storms, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I’m still really jaded after having 4 years straight of nothing. When has this ever happened in Richmond’s history for all these people saying it is normal? On all the graphs that people have posted, I’ve never seen four years straight with NO measurable snow. This is unheard of, and certainly depressing. I’m not negative…but after so many years of trying to be optimistic, it’s getting really hard. I’m sure the folks in DC and Charlottesville feel the same way, although I think over the last four years they’ve at least had a few 1 or 2 inch snows which we haven’t even had. LET IT SNOW PLEASE…if not for us, for all of the desperate snowmen flags that I see on everyone’s houses!

  18. KH says:

    We want snow!

  19. lew says:

    Is there anything to even get excited about for next week? i see that there is a chance of precipitation on Monday and Tuesday….but will it be COLD enough…..and if it is, will the air be TOO DRY like it usually is when we have the potential for snow???? And can someone please explain to me how we have such a hard time with DRY/COLD air here disrupting our chances of snow….yet out in the plains, midwest, and other areas, the air can be in the single digits, yet they don’t seem to ever have any problems with the air being TOO DRY???? Is this something that is a “local issue” for us? or does this occur everywhere? I can see where it may not be an issue in the areas around the great lakes, as moisture would probably be in the air, but for the areas i mentioned, and our area, i just don’t understand why it’s such a BIG PROBLEM for us….

    There’s nothing like watching Carolina get a nice little snowstorm, dropping as much snow in some areas, as we’ve probably had combined in the last 5 years.

  20. Jeff says:

    Yep, it’s happening. Ah well, let’s get ready for spring.

  21. Mike says:

    We are supposed to get a dusting today, and I just looked outside and the sun is peaking through the clouds. Meanwhile every single square inch of land from the Ohio River Valley to the Atlantic, and from Maine to Louisianna has gotten snow but us. Even Petersburg is getting it today………

    I mean, is this really happening?

  22. David from cumberland says:

    I would play close attention to the forecast for the first part of next week.

  23. Jeff says:

    The jet stream is moving northward overall. It could be just temporary but the data backs it up.

  24. J-Reid says:

    when was our last heavy rain… ARE U SERIOUS!?!?!? every single time a storm evolves we get the HEAVY RAIN! look outside every once in a while. Also if there was a good indication of global warming, how can we get down to 4 degrees………. just because we don’t get the snow like everyone wants around here, that does not mean we won’t get another good snow. Who knows what will happen by the end of winter. Ya never know especially when we live in one of the hardest areas to predict winter weather. and alos whoever said the jet stream doesn’t go far enough south, just look at the storm thats evolving to our south. Jet stream is going to give us a really cold day tomorrow.

  25. Alex says:

    I dont even know him. You are just mad and confused and have to blame every chance we dont have for snow on global warming!

  26. jake says:

    Alex also brainwashed….probably by j-reid.

  27. Alex says:

    Jake, J-Reid is right, you can’t say that global warming would give everyone around us snow accept us, you are crazy!

  28. jake says:

    J-reid, you are brainwashed. Please stop talking your non-sense and get with the program. The storms are much fewer now than they used to be. So our deteriorating changes are hitting doubly hard – because it’s not only harder to get cold air but also to get precip. Think about it – when is the last time we even had a heavy rain here? And every summer we have a drought. The precip is just missing. Global Warming causes all sorts of weird things to happen (extremes) – and I think bringing snow to places that rarely get it is just another example of one of those weird occurrences proving that things are out of whack. No more kool-aid for you.

  29. Jeff says:

    J-reid, the global warming arguments are more in line with overall patterns, not isolated weather events. Storms have missed us to the south before with a few inches. What has people talking about climate change is the 9 year absense of any large storms and the feeling that the jet stream no longer goes far enough south for winter noreasters to happen here.

  30. Jeff says:

    “Snow possible” was in the forecast for Sunday but only for a day.

  31. dave says:

    Yep, we’re just really unlucky. that makes me feel better. what i want to know is – how are we defying the laws of probability???? statistically we should have had more snow now than Vegas, New Orleans, Raleigh, and OBX!!! But somehow they all are going to end up having more. This is unbelievably depressing 😦

  32. alex dandridge says:

    ……….im sad:(, i want snow, who knows….weather is unpredictable. i still have hope for snow but its running out quick. i want to be a meteorologist when i grow up so im naturally obssesed with snow..LET IT SNOW


  33. CAC says:

    I would be sooooo peed off if this storm misses us all together to the SOUTH?!?!

  34. J-Reid says:

    it is proposturious to think that Richmond will never get another appreciable snow.. hence why Charlotte and Raleigh are going to get several inches of snow tomorrow. And all you people saying global warming this and global warming that, does that mean that global warming is only happening in Central Virginia? I would be more inclined to believe that if there was widespread shortages of snow. But that clearly is not the case. We are just getting really unlucky here of late. It would be cool if this was one of those storms that you went to sleep thinking nothing was going to happen and when you wake up the ground is covered.. It’s happened before, more than once!

  35. Mel says:

    So what does Jim Duncan say? Will we (Richmond area) ever see a good snow again – is there a chance? Or is it completely unlikely that we will ever see any measurable snow again? What do the experts say? I absolutely LOVE snow – and can relate to the post about watching the forecast and going to bed with the excitement of what we would wake up to. Ahhh… the good ole days when we actually got snow. My kids are 8 and 6 and have had the chance to build only 1 snowman. Come on snow!!!

  36. Lew says:

    Richmond Sucks!! It’s definitely getting comical now how we can’t get any snow!!

  37. jr.g says:

    so lets see. basically everybody who could expect to see some snow each winter after tuesday will have seen snow, except for the black hole covering 60% of virginia from roanoke to staunton to dc to richmond. this is actually funny , if carolina gets buried tuesday i say bring on the 100 degree days of summer, and let the heat start next week .lol

  38. jake says:

    let me get this we’re going to miss the snow to the South? Richmond SUCKS for snow.

  39. lew says:

    IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR A NEW BLOG??????????? It’s been 4 days now!!

  40. Jeff says:

    Here’s a very in-depth snow explanation.

  41. dave says:

    never fails…snow can never stay in the forecast for more than 24 hours and it gets yanked away…either turns to rain (Sunday) or taken away all together (Tuesday). We have a week straight of 20s and 30s temps, but what do you know, it makes sure to get up to 45 the one day we are supposed to get precip.

  42. Jeff says:

    Kristin, they are now saying rain …

  43. Kristin T says:

    The National Weather Service’s website is suddenly predicting snow for us from Sunday through Tuesday. The chances are low, but they are there! Dare I get my hopes up???

  44. james says:

    The snowstorm in 1996 was referred by some as ‘storm of the century’ for a reason – storms like that just don’t happen very often and it takes all the ‘perfect’ conditions at the right timing. Our geographical location with the mountains to our west, the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the GOM down south requires such perfect conditions to get a decent snowstorm. I remember some of our bigger snowstorms in February. They can be more fun anyway, b/c the temperature tends to be warmer, longer daylight and sometimes catches people (never the forecasters) off guard. Sometimes we awoke to blankets of snow when the forecast was just flurries (and of course the other way around). Never rule out a March snowstorm either – I don’t have any records/stats but do remember having some surprises late in the season when everyone is ready to send Winter on its way.

    As one of the earlier posts alluded to, if you don’t like the weather, wait a week and you might be surprised.

  45. Jeff Johnson says:

    Thanks Dave. I’m no global warming expert. The Dustbowl of the 30’s has often been attributed to the Jet Stream moving and weakening so it obviously moved and strengthed again at some point. Maybe ten years from now people will be saying, “Hey, remember when we had all those years without snow?”

    I do love snow. When I was a kid there was no cable so when Jim left the air at 11:25 it was me and the NOAA radio and that guy with the monotone voice, “A winter storm warning has been issued for Richmond VA” Those were the days. All you had was a radio and looking out the window at the street lamp to see if the snow was starting. You had to look to be sure because by 5AM the forcast could change to 40 and rain.

    In 2000, Raleigh, NC had 18 inches of snow and the Jet Stream hasn’t moved that much. In 1981 (I’m relying on memory for the date) Richmond had a big snowstorm on March 1st so it can happen late and it can happen furthur south. Keep the faith!

  46. dave says:

    Thank you, Jeff! I agree. The graphs never show this many years in a row with NO snow. The graphs consider snow droughts years with only 4 inches or so…so people please stop trying to rationalize that this is a normal trend that has occurred before. It’s not the same thing so get out of denial. We haven’t even had that 4″ TOTAL in over three years. People need to wake up. Yes it’s going to be bitterly cold here for TWO days, but big whoop. It’s winter, and we aren’t even close to the record lows that are in the negative digits. And it’s not just the cold that is changing about the climate, probably the bigger factor is the precip. We don’t get the big southern and coastal storms like we used to that dropped tons of precip and pulled in cold air from the north as they rotate counter-clockwise. Now when we do get those storms, few and far between, they follow a more northern jet stream and we are always on the warm side. It’s not just a Richmond thing – this is affecting everyone. The mountains of VA, DC, Phili, nobody gets the snow they used to. And for the global warming posts that keep denying it, here is a link for you:

  47. Ryan says:

    The biggest snow I remember in recent memory was in April several years ago. Woke up to around 4 inches of heavy snow. Weather around here is weird.

  48. My posts are being deleted by The Man! I am outraged! We live in America – down with censorship!!!

  49. Brandon says:

    Don’t count on any snow again this year. You know it isn’t looking good when the weatherman is has already mentioned “Spring”.

  50. jr. g says:

    is there any hope this year? um probably not. it may be if you want to see snow you going to have to take a mini vacation like i did. by spending a weekend in west virginia and parts of ohio/ pennslyvania. those folks sure aint lacking for snow . all we have had in the mts [ afton ] is one 10 min snow shower, but just a hour west on rt. 250 in highland county virginia and across the state line its been pretty snowy at times. anyway i hope im wrong on snow locally this winter but im afraid im going to be right.

  51. Judy says:

    Where there is winter… there is always hope! As Jim said, February is usually our biggest snow month even though the snows don’t tend to lay around long as the days can get fairly warm in February. I will never give up on snow no matter what the odds are. 🙂

  52. Jeff Johnson says:

    I’ve seen the graphs but I don’t see any nine year spans with hardly any measurable snow at all. D.C. people are stating how their snow totals are like Richmond’s used to be and it does seem that the whole pattern is shifting northward.

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